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The Last Cavalier

已有 1696 次阅读2013-3-11 17:10 |个人分类:大仲马| dumas

The American edition of The Last Cavalier is fondly dedicated to the Four Musketeers who helped the book come to life:


   The Last Cavalier


                Alexandre Dumas

The American edition of The Last Cavalier is fondly dedicated to the Four Musketeers who helped the book come to life:




   A LOST LEGACY, by Claude Schopp











  The Last Cavalier was originally published in France in 2005 under the title Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine.





  Trumpeting the words ‘an unpublished work by Dumas has just been found!’ is not the same thing as firing a cannon. The Great Alexandre, the most profligate spendthrift of his time, both with his creative energy and his money, had too many earthly needs to satisfy not to furnish at the slightest opportunity whatever texts piblishers might ask for because they knew he was so willing. He wrote travel sketches, literary reflections, lectures, humorous essays on all sorts of topics, and recipes. Such pieces, often insignificant and printed in the columns of a hundred newspapers, were not always gathered  together in book form; far from it. We are still finding some of them even today, and many of them have not yet been located.

  But to proclaim the words One of Dumas’s great unpublished novels has just been discovered, and we had no idea that it even existed—that is not simply lighting the powder to fire a cannon. It risks triggering a literary earthquake.

  A few years ago, had those words been whispered to anyone who loved Dumas and knew anything about his work, that person would have smiled and said, “That is impossible!” And he would not have failed to support his opinion by asserting that even if we have not found the original versions of all the novels and tales that the writer first published in serial from in the contemporary press, surely all of his important narratives have been published in book form, thus escaping oblivion. Dumas needed money too badly not to take such precautions, for publishing his serialized novels as books allowed him to ensure that his work would last for centuries and also guaranteed that he would quickly double or triple his profits (the contracts he signed as a serial writer remind us that he was perfectly capable of demanding that he be allowed to publish his narratives in book form as quickly as possible).

  So we can imagine Claude Schopp’s astonishment and wonder when the universally respected scholar and premier specialist of Dumas’s life and works discovered almost by chance (but is there really such a thing as chance?) a completely unknown Dumas text a few years ago. After he read the text and studied its background, he realized that it was the last of Dumas’s great novels. “I imagine myself as fortunate as if I had discovered El Dorado,” Schopp writes today. We can easily believe that. For the novel in question, even though it was unfinished (and though unfinished, it is still a symphony of more than a thousand pages!), does not stand simply as our Alexandre’s last conquest. It quickly proves to be the missing piece of the gigantic novelistic puzzle in which Alexandre the demiurge planned to include all of French history from the Renaissance up until his own day, from La Reine Margot up until Le comte de Monte-Cristo. It is nothing less than the great novel of the Consulate and of the Empire, the same period that had seen the birth of our novelist and the death of his father, General Dumas, a brilliant who rose through the ranks during the Revolution and who was later broken by his rival Bonaparte.

  All those knowledgeable about Dumas’s work had noticed that this piece was missing and assumed that the writer had decided not to treat that era of history, perhaps because he was too closely associated with it. Some have proposed that Dumas gave the best part of his father, who was a victim of history as much as anyone has been. So we shall not be surprised to be a legacy novel.

  One question remains. Even though this major text had been lost(which, after all, is not unique in literary history), how could it be that no one even suspected its existence②. I could not help asking Claude Schopp that question the day that he told me about Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine, which he had been editing in secret for the past fifteen years, for Schopp had the reputation of knowing everything there was to know about Dumas. (Legend has it that during his long scholarly career Schopp has gathered enough documents about his hero Dumas to have in his own archives more than ten thousand biographical cards, each one corresponding to a single day in the writer’s life from the time he was twenty years old until his death.)

  Claude Schopp answered my question, but first he debunked his own legend somewhat. He said that he does not have a card for each day of Dumas’s life (although it is true that for many days he has much more than one card). He pointed out that even though we know many details about how the energetic Alexandre spent his days, it is rarely possible to know exactly what he was working on when he shut himself up in his study. So, for the time period that corresponds to his writing Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine, the specialists know that he was writing a lot, even though he was ill. Sometimes he would cover the paper with his own large, beautiful penmanship, and sometimes he would dictate, if his hand trembled too much. But he did not use ghostwriters on such occasions because they were expensive and the state of his finances did not allow it. As for the fruits of that late season, people only noticed those that had the opportunity to garner public praise, either because they appeared on stage or were published later in book form. Those works include Le Grand Dictionnaire de cuisine, a gigantic work that appeared only after his death; a five-act play drawn from his last novel, Les Blancs et le Bleus, which enjoyed quite some success while he was still alive; and a novel he had set aside sixteen years earlier, Creation et redemption. He finished that novel in collaboration with his friend Alphonse Esquiros, though it appeared only after his death. He continued to make regular contributions to Le D’Atagnan, his final journalistic endeavor, and also wrote short notes and “chats” that people kept requesting. For a man near death, that is a lot. How can we imagine that he also had the time to launch (without any help, we must add) into a novel that would be longer than Le Comte de Monte-Cristo, even though Dumas had only about twenty months to live!

  Claude Schopp explains how this final mammoth novel managed to see the light of day and how Dumas was interrupted by death before he finished it. He also provides today’s reader the key for understanding the “Dumas mystery,” for though Dumas seemed open and transparent, he knew better than most how to hide the shadowy parts of his own character. It took Claude Schopp fifteen years to study the ins and outs of that mystery. Season after season he worked to establish the novel’s texts from the serial segments that Dumas himself had never had the opportunity to edit.

  For as we know, when Dumas took back his serialized texts to turn them into books, he took great care to correct the text and change any typographical errors, any inconsistencies, and any confusing sentences that had slipped by him when he wrote the first draft. No one better than he could have presented the personal stakes that can be so clearly linked with the writer’s final endeavor.

  He proposed the following preface almost apologetically, because he thought it was probably too long. He asked me not to hesitate, if I thought it necessary, to cut it down. That was not necessary. What Claude Schopp discloses about his discovery and careful research shows that he is very much like a Sherlock Holmes, though perhaps a more modest Sherlock Holmes. As for the long quotations from Dumas that Schopp uses to support his ideas, they are often drawn from hard-to-find or unpublished sources, and they are fascinating (as when Alexandre puts in his place the bootlicker Henry d’Escamps, who panders to those in power and who dares lecture Dumas in the name of “History”) and sometimes profoundly moving (as when the writer, then only thirteen years old, sees Napoleon after his defeat at Waterloo).

  Let us stop here. Claude Schopp’s preface is indeed long, but so much the better. He has a great deal to tell us! Dumas is also long, much longer still, but his novel is more than a gift—it is pure happiness!

  To some readers, though, the happiness will also bring sadness. For after the thousandth page, when we suddenly realize that the time for farewell is drawing near, we feel an unexpected lump rising in our throats.


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回复 cygnuszzz 2013-3-11 17:11
Claude Schopp

  An artist's last work, whether it be complete or only a sketch, whether it be a symphony, a painting,or a novel, carries de facto value as a legacy, as the artist’s ultima verba.
  On Dcccmber 5, 1870, Alexandre Dumas passed away at his son’s home in Puys, near Dieppe. Four days later, “on Friday, December 9, a Prussian column marched into the city with music playing,” we learn in La Vigie de Dieppe.
  His sole legatee, Louis Charpillon, former notary in Saint-Bris (Yonne), justice of the peace in Gisors (Eure), a cautious man above all, had believed for a long time that Normandy would be “safe from Prussian incursions.” Nonetheless,for fear that things might play out differently, he buried his most precious belongings.
  “I am terribly sorry not to be able to send you the defeasance you request,” he writes to Marie Dumas. “A week ago, I dug a hole in my cellar, and there I hid in a strongbox my most important papers, including the defeasance and my silver, etc.
  “I am sending you a sketch of my cellar because my wife Jeanne and I are the only ones who know the hiding place. If we should happen to be killed, you, my dear friend, will be able to find what I hid for my children, along with your father’s defeasance.”①
  Her father’s defeasance,that is,Alexandre Dumas’s testament, was buried-so the sketch indicates-in the second cellar, against one of the cross walls (near a circle, it is pointed out).
  Once the war ended in debacle, Charpillon dug it up and placed it four months later, on January 21, 1871, with a notary in Rouen, Ma?tre d’ete.
The writer's legacy novel, Hector de Sainte-Hermine,② lived a much longer life underground than did the holograph testament——one hundred fifty years, in fact—before seeing the light of day again today. More than simply a book, it completes Dumas’s work.

① Autograph, BnF, n.a.fr. 2437,f. 96-97, L.a.s, September 15, 1870.
② The current editor and I, following a practice which would not have displeased Dumas, whose novel titles often changed as the moved from serial form to the editions they called reading room editions (Une Famille corse becomes Les Freres corses, La Robe de noce becomes Cicile, for example) have chosen Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine as title, thus placing the emphasis on Hector’s rank with the Sainte-Hermine family. Furthermore, we thus conform to the eight-syllable count of some of Dumas’s other titles: Le Conte de Monte-Cristo, Le Vicomte de bragelonne.

  If perchance you find something you were not specifically seeking, it is because you have been looking fruitlessly for a long time. I was doing research in the Archives de la Seine near the end of the 1980s. I cannot be more precise than that. Though I am very careful about any dates relating to the life and works of Alexandre Dumas,I am much more casual about die dates marking my own life. The Archives were kept in the Hotel de Maignan, a leaky old stone vessel, destined, it seemed, for early demolition. The reading room was dark and gloomy even on the loveliest summer days. We would feverishly skim through heavy file cards,which were dirty and crumpled, filed alphabetically, referring to acts from the Office of Public Records that had been reconstituted after fires during the time of the Communes. It was like wandering through an immense cemetery.
  I no longer remember exactly what I was looking for. Certainly it was not die first time I had entered Alexandre Dumas’s infinite dark forests with their thousands of twisting paths, but I had not yet examined all the dark corners of his work, which Victor Hugo called “sparkling, vast, multiple, astonishing, and felicitous in the light of day,”① My ambition must have been limited to looking for the birth certificate of some illegitimate child or some document providing the exact identify of one of his mistresses or the mistress of one of his editors,Louis Paschal Setier, perhaps. I had probably ordered some such document and was waiting for it to arrive. In the Archives de la Seine,one tends to spend more time wailing than actually doing research. Waiting idly,I must have opened a drawer and leafed through other papers. By chance, at the letter D I read: “Alexandre Dumas (père). Josephine’s Debts, L.a.s., 2p.”

①  Victor Hugo, Les Contemplations, Book V, XV.
  I grabbed an order form, filled in my name, address, and the document number-8 AZ 282-and sent it off immediately. But I had to wait patiently before I could finally hold those two square blue sheets of paper in my own hands.
  Here I transcribe die document exactly as I read it then, without correcting any punctuation or spelling:

Josephine's Debts
  Despite the additional note placed in yesterday’s Le Pays and reproduced in Le Moniteur, not only does our collaborator and friend Alexandre Dumas maintain his assertions,but he adds for the edification of those interested some additional support for the proofs he has already provided.
  Bourrienne is speaking, and he is the only person who can verify the accounts of the First Consul and those of Josephine:
  “One can well imagine the First Consul's angry mood. Although I had only admitted half of the debt, he clearly suspected that his wife was hiding something. However, he said:
  “Weil then, take six hundred thousand francs. Use the money to liquidate her debts and don’t let me hear about this again. I give you authority to threaten her suppliers not to give them anything at all unless they relinquish some of their enormous profits. They need to learn not to be so free with selling on credit.’”
  Here I could have shown the power of a man who, having set himself above the Constitution of the Year VIII by his actions on the 18th Brumaire, was not afraid of placing himself above the Tribunal de Commerce by not paying his wife's debts, or at least by agreeing to pay only half. But it appears that six hundred thousand francs in those clays were enough to pay debts of twelve hundred thousand, since Bourrienne adds:
  “I finally had the satisfaction, after lively disputes, of taking care of everything with the six hundred thousand francs.”
  It is true that he adds:
  “But Madame Bonaparte soon returned to the same excesses. Her inconceivable mania for spending was the primary cause of all her problems. Her reckless use of money made for permanent disorder in her household, up until the second marriage with Bonaparte, when, so people have said, she settled down.”
  We cannot accuse Bourrienne of being spiteful to Josephine, for he remained her best friend up until the end. Never does he fail to seize an opportunity to praise Josephine, and never does he speak of her without expressing his gratitude for all die kindness she has bestowed upon him.
  And now let us listen to the man who must have known the most about Josephine's debts, for he is the one who paid them.
  “Josephine,” said the Emperor,” had that excessive taste for luxury, for untidiness, for lack of restraint in her spending that is so typical of Creoles. It was impossible to know how her accounts stood. She always owed something. And so there were always constant quarrels when it came time to pay her debts. Often she would send word to her suppliers that they should only ask for half of what she owed them. Even on the Isle of Elba, Josephine’s bills would swoop down on me from all over Italy.” (page 400) Memorial de Ste-Hélène. vol. 3.
  Let us conclude will the parallel Napoleon makes between his two wives:
  “At no time in the life of the first were there attitudes or positions other than pleasing or seductive. It would have been impossible to catch her or to see any problem in what she was doing; she used all imaginable art to favor her attractiveness, but with such mystery that no one could have guessed. The second, on the other hand, never even suspected that there might be something to gain in innocent artifice.
  “One was always slightly off the mark about what was true, and her first reaction was always negative. The other never tried to dissimulate, and bearing around the bush was not in her nature. The first never asked her husband for anything, but she always owed something to everyone else. The second never hesitated asking when she needed anything, but that was quite rare. She would never have considered buying something without paying for it immediately. However, both were good, sweet, and strongly attached to their husband. But you have probably already guessed which woman is which. Whoever has seen them can recognize the two empresses.” (page 407) Memorial de St?Hélène, vol. 3.
  My dear director,that is what I could have written to Monsieur Henry d’Escamps, but I thought that it would be useless to furnish copy gratis for Le Pays, if you yourself might place some value upon it.
  I contented myself with writing the following letter:
  “To Monsieur the editor of the newspaper Le Pays,
  Your answer is not an answer. I was speaking of the twelve hundred thousand francs of debts Josephine contracted from 1800 to 1801,that is, over a period of one year. I was not speaking of debts from 1804 to 1809. I leave the accounts for those five years to Monsieur Ballouhey,to Monsieur de Lavalette, and to you, not doubting that the three of you together will be able to give an account that is as exact as what Monsieur Magne accomplished for the lost four billion used over a seven or eight year period to balance the budget.
  Please accept,Monsieur, ray very best wishes.
  Alexandre Dumas”
  The handwriting and the signature were indeed those of Alexandre Dumas senior, not junior, and not those of General Matthieu Dumas or of any other Dumas, for the Dumases are legion.
  I had found; I now had to search.
  So Dumas had portrayed Josephine plagued by her creditors in a text published in Le Moniteur universel and had drawn the wrath of Monsieur Henry d'Escamps of Le Pays. Dumas was answering his contradictor, in a letter to be published, by citing the sources he had used; and that is all that I could affirm. The Dumas text itself was unknown to me. I verified that it had not been catalogued in any of the Alexandre Dumas bibliographies (neither in Reed nor in Alexandre Dumas père: A Bibliography of Works Published in French, 1825-1900 by Douglas Munro). Of course,as is often the case with Dumas, the document was not dated.
  Today I am incapable of remembering in detail all the various paths I took in trying to reach my goal. I must have looked in vain for a biographical sketch of Henry d’Escamps, and I probably remembered that Pierre Magne had been Minister of Finances between 1867 and 1870. I fruitlessly exhumed the brochure Letter addressed May 16, 1827 to Monsieur le Comte de Lavalette, by Monsieur Ballouhey, former budget secretary of Her Majesty the Empress Josephine,in-octavo,1843,  found in the second volume of Monsieur le Comte de Lavalette’s Memoires (p. 376); I must have deduced that because it was publishing a text sullying Josephine’s reputation, Le Moniteur universel could only have ceased being the official newspaper of the Second Empire. And that change must have taken place on January 1, 1869, when the Journal officiel was founded.
  Whatever my path may have been, I can imagine myself one day under the dome of the periodical room in the Bibliothèque Nationale, working in one of those little booths that look like confessionals, scrolling through a microfilm from the newspaper covering the first trimester of 1869, and discovering not the letter I had just uncovered (a letter that was never published, neither in Le Moniteur universel or in Le Pays), not an article by Dumas about Josephine’s debts, but a serialized novel,a very long novel, unfortunately unfinished: one hundred eighteen chapters running, rather irregularly, from January 1 to October 30,1869. Nearly a year of serials! I can imagine that I must have been as happy as if I had discovered El Dorado. It was Alexandre Dumas’s final novel, a novel interrupted by illness and death, the novel on which his indefatigable pen finally had come to a stop.
  Using all the funds at my disposal, a few months later I was able to obtain a photocopy of those chapters, and I eagerly attacked the thick bundle. At the time, though, no one was discussing whether Dumas should some day be in the Pantheon. But Guy Schoeller, director at the publishers Bouquins, loved Dumas (in the ninth grade, bent over Ins desk, he would read Le Comte de Monte-Cristo during his Latin class), and he agreed to include Hector de Sainte-Hermine in the series” The Great Novels of Alexandre Dumas," of which I was the director. Because of changes in the editorial policies of die publisher, he was unable to carry out the project, however, and returned to me the manuscript.
  “But when will you finally publish Hector?” my impatient friend Christophe Mercier kept asking each time I would meet him. I had told him about my secret child.
  Today it has become n reality, thanks to Jean-Pierre Sicre,who has every bit as much panache as Guy Schoeller and who is his worthy successor.
  “Habent sua fata libelh”(“Each book has its own destiny"), Dumas used to delight in saying, quoting Terentianus Maurus.
回复 cygnuszzz 2013-3-11 17:50

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